With most KIJHL teams now completed the quarter-mark of their 42-game schedule, we dig into how they have been performing in this week’s KIJHL Notebook.
Eddie Mountain Division
Atop of the Eddie Mountain Division, the Columbia Valley Rockies have eight wins in 13 games. The Rockies earned a split last weekend, in which they bounced back to double up the Beaver Valley Nitehawks 8-4 after losing in overtime to Creston Valley. They improved their record against Neil Murdoch division teams to six wins and a loss.
The Fernie Ghostriders sit one point behind the Rockies with eight wins in 12 games. They earned back-to-back shutout victories over the Castlegar Rebels and Grand Forks Border Bruins last weekend.
“It’s a process, it’s nice to see them figure out our system and play the right way,” says Ghostriders Head Coach and General Manager Ty Valin. “It always takes time. You don’t want to peak too early and you don’t want to peak too late either.”
A commitment from the players to play strong defensive hockey has stood out to Valin. Captain Kyle Klein has been playing well and has been “a huge person in our dressing room.”
“Even his on-ice play has started to come around,” says Valin. “He’s playing a good defensive-minded game and becoming a good shutdown defenceman. He is also contributing on the offence as well. It was nice for him to get his 100th game last weekend.”
The Kimberley Dynamiters have won seven of their 12 games. They picked up wins over Creston Valley and Golden last weekend to improve their record to seven wins, three losses, and two shootout losses.
“We are playing much better as of late, especially in terms of generating scoring chances,” says Dynamiters Head Coach and General Manager Derek Stuart. “I really liked how we controlled the game and dictated how it was going to be played. We held our opponent to single digit shots in each period and that usually gives us an opportunity to get the result we want.”
The Dynamiters outshoot their opponents every period, with the largest margin in the second at plus-27. The Dynamiters are 5-0 when leading after the second period.
Since joining the Dynamiters from the North Okanagan Knights earlier in the season, Tenzin Bogardis has brought a calming presence to the blueline.
“He is extremely poised with the puck and gets it moving north quickly,” adds Stuart. “He has improved our PP as well.”
In six games, Bogardis has three points, two of which are power-play assists.
The Creston Valley Thunder Cats have seven wins in 12 games. They split their games last weekend, earning an overtime win over the Rockies. Nearly half of their wins have come against divisional opponents and the second period has been their best offensively, outscoring opposition 16-6.
The Golden Rockets have won five of 11 games. They lost both last weekend 5-4 in overtime to Beaver Valley and 3-2 against Kimberley. The Rockets are 4-0 when leading after two periods.
Neil Murdoch Division
The Beaver Valley Nitehawks have eight wins in 13 games to sit first in their division. After splitting their games last weekend, the Nitehawks defeated the Grand Forks Border Bruins 4-2 at home. The Nitehawks have won five of six games while leading after two, but have also been able to win twice in six games while trailing after two periods.
The Nelson Leafs have seven wins in 12 games to steadily climb near the top of the division. They were doubled up 4-2 by the Castlegar Rebels on Wednesday after winning both their weekend games, including a 7-3 decision
in Castlegar on Nov. 6.
“I thought against Castlegar on Saturday we had better execution. We have seen steady improvement from each game,” says Leafs assistant coach Adam DiBella. “We’re looking to improve on that every game.
“Our group and coaching staff are committed to the process,” continued DiBella. “It’s a long 42-game season. When we were below .500, five games ago, we weren’t panicking, and we’re not riding high right now.”
What stands out to the Leafs is the great improvement in players.
“We have a 17-year-old D-man (Bryce Sookro) leading our defence scoring in points. We have all these players coming in out of AA,” says DiBella.
Sookro, who is third in team scoring with 10 points in 12 games, came into camp viewed as a sixth or seventh defenceman. Now he is viewed as a No.1 or 2 defenceman every night.
“He’s consistent, he’s an effortless skater, he’s a big (6-1, 200 pounds) punishing D-man to play against,” adds DiBella. “He moves the puck well. When you add up all those skills, that’s a player that’s bound for better things next year.”
The Castlegar Rebels have three wins in 11 games. After losing both games on the weekend, the last coming to Nelson, they rebounded to defeat the Leafs 4-2 on Wednesday.
“Lately I think our team has improved. We have been struggling to score goals, we’ve scored less than three goals a game,” says Head Coach and General Manager Arnie Caplan. “That has been challenging.”
Positives from the weekend was pushback to come back in games, which was great for Caplan to see. He also likes that they have been generating more shots.
“Our power-play has been clicking better, generating more goals,” he says.
Their power-play has scored 12 times on 47 chances, for a 25.5 percent efficiency rate.
Defenceman Liam Dumelie, acquired from Kamloops, has impressed Caplan and scored his first goal as a Rebel in his third game.
“He’s definitely proven to be one of our best defenseman right away,” says Caplan, who has also been happy with their goaltending.
The Grand Forks Border Bruins remain winless after 10 games, their recent defeat coming Wednesday, 4-2 in Beaver Valley. The Border Bruins made some moves recently to acquire Matteus Reis from Kelowna and Ollie Morberg from Osoyoos. Reis scored his first goal as a Border Bruin in his third game on Wednesday. Ray Warrack also scored in the loss to Beaver Valley and leads the team with four goals and 10 points.
Doug Birks Division
The Kamloops Storm have won nine of 13 games, but lost both games last weekend to the Revelstoke Grizzlies and Summerland Steam. New addition Mason Svarich has three goals and 11 points in six games. The Storm are nearly unbeatable when they score first, going 6-1 and they have won eight of nine games when leading after two periods. The Storm also have a strong record in their division, winning six of eight games.
The Chase Heat have won six of their 12 games and after losing 6-0 to the Sicamous Eagles on the weekend, but they rebounded to defeat the Eagles 6-2 on Wednesday, led by Dylan Handel’s two-goal performance.
The Heat have outscored their opponents every period, except for overtime, which they have lost three times. The Heat are undefeated at 5-0 when outshooting the opposition.
The Revelstoke Grizzlies won both their games last weekend to improve to 7-5. The second victory on the weekend was a 5-0 shutout of the 100 Mile House Wranglers. When asked about his team’s performance early into the season, Head Coach and General Manager Ryan Parent says they are trying to develop some consistency.
“We have kind of had a weekend up, a weekend down,” he says. “We need to develop some consistency in our play. I think we did that this past weekend and I’m not even talking about results, but just our work rate overall has to be better.”
The Grizzlies compete level from the weekend stood out to Parent, who says when they have that, “we’re a very good hockey team. We’re tough to play against. It’s a necessary factor for our club.”
Parent feels they have several players digging in, he saw that last weekend, and simply working hard.
Brandon Kasdorf, 20, returned from Junior A, in which he played four games for the SJHL’s Weyburn Red Wings between last season and this season.
“Brandon in my opinion was the best young player a couple of years ago for us, maybe the best young player in the league,” says Parent of the Rosemary, Alberta native, who has two points in two games this season, and put up 20 goals and 57 points in 48 games in 2019-20.
The 100 Mile House Wranglers are 4-6 on the season and have won all their games when scoring first. They settled for a split on the weekend after defeating the Summerland Steam 8-1, in which Loic Mainguy-Crepault made 44 of 45 saves. Nathan Bohmer leads the team with eight goals and 12 points in nine games.
The Sicamous Eagles picked up their second win of the season with a 6-0 shutout of the Heat. Jordan Lott made 32 saves for his first win, while Chase Jarman opened the scoring and Hayden Fast led with two goals, to double his season total to four.
Bill Ohlhausen Division
The Osoyoos Coyotes are atop the division with nine wins in 11 games. The Coyotes are the lone KIJHL team without a regulation time loss. They won both their games on the weekend against Princeton and Kelowna by a combined score of 11-4 and now have 63 goals on the season. Kaleb Kremp has 10 goals in 11 games, while Ethan O’Rourke leads the team with four winners, which also is tied for the league lead.
The Summerland Steam have won eight of their 12 games and are 4-1 under new Head Coach and General Manager Mark MacMillan. He likes how the team is playing and having success with wins helps.
“We’ve got lots of work left to do and lots of places that can still improve, but I’ve been impressed with how the boys have been playing and their approach to coming to the rink everyday and guys seem to want to get better. It’s been exciting and fun to be around,” says MacMillan.
One of the biggest things MacMillan wanted to emphasize with the group was accountability. He wants them to show up on time and ready to practice, being prepared. He wants them to focus on the task at hand.
Their energy and excitement in their play stands out.
“After playing pro for years, I think it kind of surprises people, but a lot of pro hockey players tend to fall out of love with the game. It just becomes a job a little bit. The energy and excitement of a bunch of young junior players that want to get better has been evident in the way we are playing. Guys are excited to be out there and working hard and having fun while we’re doing it.”
The Kelowna Chiefs have won six of their 13 games. On Wednesday, they lost 3-2 to North Okanagan, which comes off the heels of a 5-2 loss to Osoyoos. New addition Nick Morin, picked up from Grand Forks, has an assist in two games. The Chiefs are undefeated at 3-0 when leading after two periods.
The North Okanagan Knights have won five of their 11 games, and are on a three-game winning streak – their most recent victory Wednesday, 3-2 against Kelowna. Newly acquired forward Brayden Baustad opened the scoring against Kelowna and has three points in eight games with the Knights. Goalie Gabriel Murrells-Allaway has earned all the wins with a 2.29 goals against average and .933 save percentage.
The Princeton Posse have two wins in 14 games, their most recent loss 2-1 in overtime against North Okanagan
on Nov. 6.
“In all those games there’s flashes, there’s bits and pieces of positives kind of spread out across the game,” says Posse Head Coach Mark Readman of their performance last weekend, including a loss to Osoyoos. “Our power-play has been getting better, it has been getting more looks. We have been trying to make some adjustments on the defensive side of the puck. I think our group at times has intermittently shown to defend hard and defend fast. We are taking steps in the right direction.”
Readman is seeing a willingness to bounce back quickly and they are playing stronger defensively. The addition of goalie Ryan Dusseault from Kamloops has given the team confidence with his play.
“He made a couple of outstanding saves in the game to keep our boys in it – that was nice to see,” says Readman.
The Posse coach has also liked the play of defenceman Curtis Gould, who has been “a steady force on the backend.”
With injuries to key centremen expected to be out long-term, Mason Mowat has provided stability down the middle. Captain Jake McCulley has also provided defensive stability after returning from his suspension.